This starts sluggishly, taking forever to set up. We know Frank Castle's family must bite the big one before things can get going - the makers do too, yet spend 30 minutes having Castle attend family reunions, and bond with his son who, in one of the most cringeworthy scenes in recent screen history, gives him a T-shirt with a skull on it. Happy Father's Day. Luckily, after the inevitable massacre, things improve, Castle taking on evil gangster Mr. Saint (Travolta, dialing it in, as if Pulp Fiction had never resurrected his career), and rooming next-door to a bunch of equally dysfunctional, tho' obviously less violently-inclined, citizens.
Lacking the moral ambiguity of the Lundgren version - there's no doubt here about Castle's revenge - the script has a nice angle, with Saint manipulated into carrying out vengeance on himself. There's scope for a film where retribution for violence is exacted entirely with brains, not brawn; but this, being The Punisher, is not that movie. Instead, he inevitably opts to assault Saint's lair single-handed, discarding intelligence for guns, blades and explosives. Two moments stuck in my mind: one involves a knife and someone's mouth, the other an aerial shot of cars on fire. Both are mad, comic-book cinema; it's no coincidence, and an accurate summary of the movie, that none of the actors are anywhere as memorable.